A society that prizes harmony, Japanese are known for going to great lengths to avoid saying “no.” But last month Tokyo did just that, stunning Washington as it pulled the plug on a big-ticket U.S weapons purchase, the Aegis Ashore missile defense system.
More than two years into the project, Defense Minister Taro Kono suddenly informed Prime Minister Abe, “I don’t want to go ahead with this,” according to a report in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Using advanced radar and SM3 interceptor missiles, Aegis Ashore was meant to complement the Japan’s seven Aegis destroyers and Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missile systems.
The country’s decision to purchase the Aegis Ashore systems dates back to 2017, a year that saw 15 North Korean ballistic missile tests — some over Japanese airspace — as President Donald Trump accused allies including Japan of “free-riding” and threatened to withdraw U.S. troops. (Japan says it pays 74% of the costs to base 50,000 U.S. troops in the country.)
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